The Stump

Running for Office in Iraq

With provincial elections in Iraq only three weeks away, candidates are taking to the streets and, perhaps surprisingly, the web, to get their message out. With 14,400 candidates vying for 440 seats in 14 provinces, candidates are forced to do anything they can to stand out. For some, like provincial council candidate Fareeq Khazaali, that means embracing the art of text messages and Facebook, while others stick to the more traditional venues of pamphlets or, in some cases, bribes of cooking oil, blankets, and cash. "We are at the beginning of the right way toward democracy," said Judge Qasim Aboodi, chief of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission, who acknowledges that there have been issues with vandalism of campaign material and exchanging gifts for votes. But the honest pols are the ones winning converts. "I respect the way this candidate is campaigning. He is now living among the people. They can ask him about himself or his political program. We rarely see such frankness and transparency among the politicians," one Iraqi voter said of Khazaali.